Sunday Whatever

noIt’s probably about time for me to admit that I haven’ the faintest idea what I’m doing with this blog.  After over three years, one would have thought that I would have settled into some sort of happy little groove, but I haven’t really.  If anything, this is all going backwards – and much I should probably blame poor writing for this, the little graphic at the top-right of this that has appeared on the Facebook Page that accompanies this site recently should also shoulder a good chunk of it too.

This blog is tiny, and I guess I got lucky at the start of the life of whatever this is when one or two posts started to get passed around and retweeted… I even managed to garner a few comments on posts (albeit about 50% negative), and traffic was uniformly high, certainly higher than anything I could have expected from miserably scribbling away.  And then this happened on the site where most networking occurred.

Facebook is a business (even more so now it’s gone Public) and businesses need money, but in its voracious desire to hoover up every cent from everyone and by treating piddly little sites like this with the same approach as they do General Motors, Coca-Cola etc, they’ve strangled all sense of community.  Because every view is now so precious to everyone, bands and artists are now so focused on pleading with their fans to comment, like share and retweet every snippet of info, they’re not noticing so much when people do say something about them.  Especially when things can’t be soundbitten down into a meaningless arbitrary score (“This record was the soundtrack to my losing my love and my subsequent descent into drinking and drugs, so I rate this 8/10!” – and this record exists but I’m buggered if I’m going to tell you which one it is), it does sometimes feel now that everything’s getting a bit insular and territorial now, and that does nobody any good.  Word Of Mouth is just as important for blogs such as this as it is for the people that blogs such as this write happily and freely in favour of – it means that there is an outlet of positivity that they haven’t had to pay or beg their fans for, and this symbiosis also requires participation, otherwise that $10 per day to get one’s musings out there starts to look worryingly inevitable…


So why continue, if it makes me so angry and despondent at times?  Because sometimes it’s as good an outlet for my pettier, nastier side as it is for my enthusiasm and joy.  And as I don’t spend time here writing about what I think are bad records (because I don’t buy bad records as a rule, it’s kind of a waste of money to do so), I need a slightly different target to vent my spleen .  And when I hear that someone has bought something, or even just taken the time to have a bit of a listen, based on something that’s been written here, I can’t explain just how good that feels.  On the rare occasion that a conversation is begun that sends its participants off to a record store on the basis of something that someone said, it’s brilliant.  When artists take the time to pass something on or even get in touch, it’s a fantastic feeling and I am so utterly grateful for every single time that I see something of mine appearing on Facebook or Twitter or on other people’s sites and messageboards.  Hopefully I can keep bungling away here until the pendulum swings back towards a relationship that’s much closer to “us” than “them”.


Sunday Whatever

I usually do these things when I’ve nothing else to do and want to keep my brain in some sort of gear.  This time, I’m doing it because I’ve got a pile of stuff on the go and I want to slow the grey matter down a bit, giving myself time to sit down and properly listen to the things I’ve already posted on rather than moving onto the next thing.

And I need to soak in much of the goodness of the last 6 weeks or so and clear the decks for the next month, as – after much nudging from others who have already started – the framework for the old End Of Year Doings has begun to take shape, and I don’t want to leave it all to the last minute like I did for the last two years.  I’m also determined to bow down to tradition and have just the one No.1 this year….  I do realise I’ve been going on about this bloody thing for a few posts now, but it’s one of those chores that alternates between huge fun and absolute misery and it’s always the fun that wins out.

Much to enjoy in the next two weeks where I dip into the backlog again whilst waiting for more goodies during the next couple of weeks for certain, including a soundtrack to a film I’ve not watched since I was a kid which terrified me at the time and I’ve not watched it since.  So, some good memories to be trawled from that then.


The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project – The Journey Is Long

How weird.  I could have sworn that I had done something about this record’s predecessor back in the day, but then I noticed that We Are Only Riders appeared back in 2009, just before this blog started.  How time flies when you’re having fun, eh?

Ah well, better give a bit of background, then.  The JLP Sessions Project was put together by one Cypress Grove,  former Gun Club frontman Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s final collaborator before his death in 1996, after he found some cassettes in his loft one day containing demos, ideas and sketches for new songs that Jeffrey was working on with him.  These sketches were completed and reinterpreted by several of his friends, collaborators and fans to form We Are Only Riders.  Three years later, and released as close to the anniversary of Jeffrey’s passing as such schedules will allow, a second collection is now available.


Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Manchester Cathedral, 14/07/2011

I’ve been to some odd locations for gigs lately.  A field with a massive radio-telescope in it, a patio-ed room with a metal staircase in the middle of the dance floor, an art gallery beside the sea and a chapel.

And now, a full-on Cathedral.  In as much as Cathedrals can be full-on.  I’m not very religious, I have no idea how the terminology is supposed to work.


It’s not been that long (February, in fact) since I last saw Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan take the stage for a show that was enjoyable but somewhat perfunctory in nature, with neither the audience nor the artists really getting into the swing of things in the way that a live show probably should, certainly in comparison to previous shows that I had seen them perform (seeing Mark dab his eyes due to laughing so hard at a Christmas show in Bexhill-on-Sea is an odd image, but definitely a memorable one).  This one was somewhat more upbeat, if somewhat curtailed by an errant toaster.


Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Shepherd’s Bush Empire 15/02/2011

Jaunts to our nation’s capital are not something I look forward to, in all honesty.  Due to a largely crap transport infrastructure (thanks, Dr. Beeching!) getting there and especially home again takes the organisation of a military campaign.  Sadly in my case, the campaign in question whenever I try to organise such a beano is the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Still, these affairs are more than just popping down to the Smoke and taking in a show.  It’s about meeting up with old friends who I don’t see often enough, and finally putting faces to online names and distant friendships; a tradition going back some years and always a pleasure .  Having said that, it’s not a huge amount of fun to then have to leg it from the venue straight after the show in order to make sure I get home for 6:00 the following morning, and then still having to sit freezing in a Coach Terminal in Purgatory.  C’est la vie I guess, although it would be nice if more people added non-London dates to their UK itinerary occasionally.


End of Year Doings, Part 3

Yes, quite.

Just realised that in doing a top 35 (which isn’t exactly 35 anyway), splitting it into chunks of ten will eventually offend some law of mathematics or other.  Whoops.

Undeterred by this, the last five(ish!) will be individually added daily next week from Monday – although as I’m attempting a jaunt off down to the South Coast on Wednesday for three days this might get delayed a bit depending on internet connection and whether or not I stuff the car into a snowdrift on the way down there.  Will be brilliant when/if I arrive (not least because of a gig I’ve been looking forward to for months), must admit to being a bit twitchy about the journey although I’m sure it’s nothing that a shovel, spare socks and a flask of Bovril can’t sort out…  Will certainly be finished by next Sunday anyway, as I’m getting to the point where I just want it done and out of the bloody way!


End Of Year Doings, Part 1

I hate end of year lists.

Usually, it’s because the ones I read usually either are full of bands and records that I’ve never heard  of and therefore make me feel old, or they’re full of bands and records that I have heard of but are in what I believe to be the wrong order.

And this year I get to hate them even more because I get to write one, in a year where I’ve listened to lots and liked and loved far too much of it.  So, what should have been a simple top 10 at the end of the year has turned into a top 35, as that’s as short a list that I could manage.  And I cheated a few times in that list as well, although that’ll become apparent as this goes on.

And yes, it’s still November.  But given that Christmas ads on the TV have been on for weeks, I’ve probably already started late.  And given that I’m still undecided about the very top of the list of my favourite albums and EPs of 2010, hopefully by Christmas Eve I’ll have made my mind up.  If I haven’t, then I’ll probably just toss a coin and nobody will be any the wiser.

I should also point out that none of this really matters – basically, there are about a dozen records this year that I’ve absolutely loved, and about twice that number again that I have merely “liked a hell of a lot” (ones I thought that ranged from merely OK to awful I’ve simply omitted), so everything included in this comes very highly recommended for the various ways that they have moved this knackered soul during the course of this year.  The difference between something placed at number 33 and one placed at number 18 for example is utterly minimal, and most placings are of the “that looks about right” school of applied musical logic.  So if anyone thinks that their favourite record is placed 3, 10 or 30 places incorrectly (or not placed at all), then good – because your passion for whatever form of music or band or artist and the way that they move you is unique and brilliant and keep up the good work!


Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Hawk

Been a busy last couple of days, and thanks to a popular purveyor of musical items happy enough to take pre-orders weeks in advance and then not being quite so on the ball when it comes to posting, this arrived about half an hour before I set off down to London to see one half of this partnership play a sublime gig (see previous entry) and, as happenstance would have it, the other half sat in a pew just behind where I was watching the show.

I have to say that much as I enjoyed the previous two albums (Ballad Of The Broken Seas and Sunday at Devil Dirt), I feel that the whole Lee/Nancy thing had been done and the actual Mark/Isobel chemistry was far more interesting anyway, so hopes were for something that little bit different this time round.  And Hawk doesn’t disappoint in this respect. (more…)